The UPA’s old schemes are unravelling while the new ones are still to take off, says Sunita Moga
The United Progressive Alliance government may be getting ready for its fourth and final anniversary bash on May 22, but the mood in the ruling coalition is far from celebratory.
Hit by fresh controversies over 2G spectrum allocation and coal-gate scams, the government is further weighed down by the fact that it has no significant achievement to show in its annual report card, except for the Direct Benefits Transfer scheme.
An air of uncertainty hangs over the government which has lost two key allies – the Trinamool Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam -- while its external supporter Samajwadi Party has been acting erratically.
The UPA government had suffered from similar anxiety pangs on its third anniversary last year but the ailing coalition had been partially revived when SP supremo Mulayum Singh Yadav joined the celebrations when the annual report card was released.
Today, the UPA government is struggling to ensure its survival and present a credible record of its achievements before the people. Although the much-touted cash transfer programme is being billed by the ruling coalition as a game-changer, several glitches have surfaced in its implementation and the scheme is yet to take off.
The Congress-led UPA government is banking heavily on the success of this programme. It is hopeful that the cash transfer scheme will capture the imagination of the electorate in the same way the farmers’ loan waiver and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act did in the run-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
Given the prevalent bleak scenario, the preparation of the UPA’s annual “Report to the People”, which details the government’s achievements, has generated no enthusiasm.
The report card is released on May 22 every year by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, in the presence of all the coalition’s allies, at a special function organised at the PM’s residence.
This annual exercise is meant to be a show of strength to highlight the UPA government’s flagship programmes and other sector-wise achievements.
With less than a month to go for the anniversary party, the preparation of the annual report card is currently going on. The Prime Minister’s Office had recently written to all the ministries to compile a list of their special programmes and schemes for inclusion in the report card.
But UPA insiders admitted that the ministries are far from enthusiastic about this annual ritual as they have little to write home about. The revelations about the irregularities in the implementation of the rural job guarantee scheme and the less than satisfactory implementation of other programmes such as the Right to Education have further dampened the mood.
The UPA’s old schemes are unravelling while the new ones are still to take off.
The government is drawing comfort from the fact that it has managed to roll out the DBT programme even though it is currently on a limited scale and its impact is yet to be felt by the people.
While it waits anxiously for the successful implementation of this programme, the inability to move ahead with its legislative agenda is also worrying the beleaguered UPA government. Consequently, the Land Acquisition Bill, the Food Security Bill and the Insurance and Pension Bill are stuck in limbo, as a determined opposition has steadfastly derailed parliamentary proceedings and blocked important legislations on some pretext or the other.
The second half of the Budget Session, which got underway on April 22, has made no headway as the opposition has not allowed any business to be transacted.
The BJP_led opposition is stalling the proceedings to protest against the content of the Joint Parliamentary Committee’s report on the 2G spectrum scam and reports that Law Minister Ashwani Kumar had directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to amend the affidavit on the allocation of coal blocks.
Due to the Parliament logjam, the government has been unable to send out a positive message to its investors about its reforms agenda or win brownie points with the electorate.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram is understandably a worried man these days. He made a valiant attempt to hard-sell the India story to prospective investors on a recent visit to Canada and the United States. He dismissed reports about political uncertainty in the country and assured foreign investors about the stability of the UPA government.
But Chidambaram has privately acknowledged that in order to attract foreign investments, India must demonstrate that economic reforms are on track and to do so, it is imperative for it to push through its legislative agenda. In the prevailing circumstances, this is proving to be an uphill task.
Nevertheless, Chidambaram is soldiering on. He has promised several new executive decisions in the coming months to spur the reforms process. The finance minister has also appealed to the opposition to cooperate in the passage of key pending bills on the plea that economic issues should be dealt in a bipartisan manner.